On Cultivating One's Speech


PureInsight | April 27, 2008

[PureInsight.org] Mrs. Xie,
mother of Song dynasty literary celebrity Wu He, was extremely strict
in teaching her children. When Wu He talked to a visitor, she would
listen behind a screen to make sure that her son say anything that
might damage his virtue.  

One day, Wu He spoke to a visitor about the shortcomings of another
person. His mother was very angry. After the visitor left, Wu's mother
beat him with a cane one hundred times.

Their relatives pleaded with her: "Criticizing others is not unusual
among scholars. It is not a big fault. Yet you beat him so hard."

His mother sighed: "I have heard that parents who love their daughters
always wish to marry off their daughters to the cautious scholars. I
have only one son and I want him to know morality and justice. If he
does talk cautiously, then he must have forgotten his mother. Is this
how one conducts oneself?" She sobbed and refused to eat anything.

Chinese traditional culture promotes circumspection in one's speech.
Cultivation circles also stress cultivation of speech. It is because
speech can hurt others more than a gun or a sharp knife. Once one
utters something, the words cannot be retrieved and could incur enmity
and karma.

A learned and virtuous person stresses cultivation of speech. They will
not talk about others' shortcomings in private. They only correct and
suggest remedies for others' mistakes honorably and look back upon
themselves whether they have the same flaw.

Under his mother stern guidance, Wu He kept a close watch on himself
and paid attention to his virtue and became an eminent person of his

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